Biography for the Use of Birds
I was born in the century of the death of the rose
when the motor had already driven out the angels.
Quito watched as the last stagecoach rolled away,
and at its passing trees ran by in perfect order,
and also hedges and houses of new parishes,
at the threshold of the countryside
where cows were slowly chewing silence
as wind spurred on its swift horses.
My mother, clothed in the setting sun,
stored her youth deep in a guitar
and only on certain evenings would she show it to her children,
wrapped in music, light, and words.
I loved the hydrography of rain,
yellow fleas on apple trees,
and toads that rang two or three times
their thick wooden bells.
The great sail of the air manuevered endlessly.
The cordillera was a shore of the sky.
A storm came, and as drums rolled
its drenched regiments charged;
but then the sun’s golden patrols
restored translucent peace to the fields.
I watched men embrace barley,
horsemen sink into sky,
and laden wagons pulled by lowing oxen
travel down to the mango-fragrant coast.
There was a valley with farms
where dawn set off a trickle of roosters,
and to the west was a land where sugarcane
waved its peaceful banner, and cacao trees
stored in coffers their secret fortunes,
and the pineapple girded on its fragrant cuirass,
the nude banana its silken tunic.
It has all passed, in successive waves,
just as the useless ciphers of sea foam pass.
Entangled in seaweed, the years went by slowly
as memory became scarcely a water-lily,
its drowned face
looming up between two waters.
The guitar is only a coffin for songs
as the cock with its head wound laments
and all the earth’s angels have emigrated,
even the dark brown angel of the cacao tree
Fruit seller church
seated at the corner of life:
crystal orange windows,
the sugar cane organ.
Angels: little chicks
of Mother Mary.
The blue-eyed bell
wanders off on bare feet
throughout the countryside.
angelic burro with its innocent sex;
wind, in Sunday best,
bringing news from the mountains.
Indian women with loads of vegetables
The sky rolls up its eyes
when it sees the church bell
run barefoot from the church.
Ecuadorian Man under the Eiffel Tower
You turn into a plant on the coasts of time.
With a chalice of round sky
and tunnel for traffic,
you are the largest ceiba tree on earth.
The painter’s eye climbs up
through your scissor-stairs to blue.
Over a flock of roofs you stretch your neck
like a llama of Peru.
Robed in folds of wind,
with an ornamental comb of constellations,
you loom over
the circus of the horizon.
Mast of an adventure upon time!
Pride of five hundred and thirty cubits.
Pole of the tent raised by men
in a corner of history.
With gaseous lights your sketch in the night
reproduces the Milky Way.
First letter of a cosmic Alphabet,
pointing towards sky,
hope standing on stilts,
a glorified skeleton.
Iron that brands a flock of clouds,
mute sentinel of an Industrial Age.
The tides of heaven
silently undermine your column.
In bookstores there are no books,
in books no words,
in words no essence:
there are only husks.
In museums and waiting rooms
are painted canvases and fetishes.
In the Academy there are only recordings
of the wildest dances.
In mouths there is only smoke,
in the eyes only distance.
There is a drum in each ear.
A Sahara yawns in the mind.
Nothing frees us from the desert.
Nothing saves us from the drum.
Painted books shed their pages,
becoming husks of Nothing.
Power Of The Word
You, panther and statue, angel of fruit,
sexual bread shop, monument of wheat,
with throat pierced by the dart
of a sudden word, have fallen into shadows.
Oh deadly and fiery word that arrives
to engrave itself so accurately in marble,
like the rifle that blindly strikes down
the soldier from a distance.
Panther of wheat, you now lie like
a toppled statue on an empty beach.
The sea foam of oblivion washes up around you -
O prone pillars where doves nest!
Blue lightning of the word
has scattered your useless wings and fruit,
and, in shadows, your abandoned body is
a frigid bread shop washed out by the moon.
Sketch Of Contemporary Man
The world is covered with cradles
that sing in the night.
Man lives accumulating blocks of stone
for the houses of the future man.
Weighed down by climates,
making his way among towers, chimneys and antennae,
a traveler each day in his own city,
he is shipwrecked by five o’clock
among an electric vegetation of advertisements.
Master of machines,
he lives in skyscrapers.
You are in the North, South, East and West:
white man, yellow man, black man.
In his hands bloom
itineraries of boats and trains.
Nourished by newspapers
mornings are summed up in his eyes.
The railroad plows through the earth,
turning up shavings of landscapes;
piloted by the man with perfect hands
an airplane rises against the geography.
in Mexico and Berlin, in Moscow and Buenos Aires
as his telegrams cover the planet.
This is the landscape of our night:
the city girds on its belt of trains,
as searchlights extend their snail’s antenna
and an airplane, a celestial shipwreck, descends.
Man, inventor of the future, arises
surrounded by machines,
posters of Lenin, street plans of New York
and panoramas of the world.